My Summer at the District Attorney’s Office

I first articulated my learning goals for this summer when applying for my World of Work scholarship. Upon reflection, I chose three goals: to gain experience in a fast-pace environment, to determine what field of law I would be interested in pursuing, and to become a more confident worker. At the time, these goals felt overly optimistic; since I was not sure what to expect, I did not know what I could reasonable hope to gain from my experience. However, now that I have reached the end of my internship, I can confidently say that all my goals have been met.

Working in a courthouse has certainly given me a better understanding of what it would be liked to have a job in a fast-paced field such as criminal justice. Unexpected evidence or witness non-compliance may arise suddenly and completely change the trajectory of a case. However, these situations must be dealt with quickly and efficiently to ensure that the defendant receives his right to a timely trial.

The district attorney's office logo
The district attorney’s office logo

Additionally, I have gained a much better understanding of how I would want to apply a degree in law. Rather than push me to want to be a prosecutor, this internship has made me realize that my true interest in law lies in examining the underlying structure and rules that guide the legal system. This internship has helped me better understand that I am interested in working in legal policy.


Finally, and perhaps most surprisingly, I have gained extraordinary confidence throughout this summer. This internship has made me realize how important it is that I remember that I am not a nervous college freshman. Instead, I may be less than a year away from entering the workforce without the title of “intern” and have, in my past few years gained tremendous experience and have substantive skills to offer. I have never been a particularly shy or self-conscious person, but this summer I have realized how crucial it is that I take myself seriously not just as a person, but also as a professional.

I would definitely advise students considering attending law school to try and gain a similar experience that includes experience in the courtroom as my internship did. I previously avoided internships in law because I thought that without a law degree, I would only be assigned insignificant, menial work. While I was not asked to represent the Commonwealth in court at any point, by just being in the courthouse and getting first-hand exposure to legal proceedings, I gained valuable skills and a better understanding of my career goals. I would also recommend working at a big, busy office like Boston Municipal where there are constantly new things to see and experience.

All the files I shared my desk with!
All the files I shared my desk with!

Reflecting on this summer, I am extremely happy and proud of all that I have accomplished. Above all, I am proud of myself for taking so many moments to reflect on my experience and what I was learning. I think it was this reflection—in large part prompted by my WOW scholarship—that has made my internship such a valuable growing experience.


Dustin Fire, ’17

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Law is not a Machine

To me, the phrase the “criminal justice system” has always evoked the image of a well-oiled machine. A case comes into the courthouse and—after a little under the hood mechanics—is transformed into a verdict. My mechanical vision of criminal justice led me to believe that a career in law would necessarily be mundane and repetitive. Halfway through my internship, I have come to realize I was entirely wrong.

My corner of the office!

Cases certainly enter Boston Municipal, but sentences depend on countless factors. Last week, the office also hosted a “Brown Bag Lunch” where they invited interns to hear a speaker: the head of the Family Protection and Sexual Assault Bureau, David Deakin. Deakin discussed a rape and robbery he was prosecuting in which the defendant was an identical twin. While his DNA had been found on the victim, his brother’s DNA matched the sample as well. In 2014—ten years after the assault—a German company became the first to pioneer a DNA test that could differentiate between identical twins. Deakin now prepares to be the first prosecutor to ever introduce ultra-deep next-generation sequencing in court, setting a legal precedent for years to come. His job certainly did not sound systematic or dull.

Some of the many disposed case files being stored in the office



Even my “boring” tasks as an intern have proved to be exciting, thought provoking and incredibly gratifying. Answering phone calls is exceptionally rewarding, when there is a victim on the other end expressing how thankful they are to have someone they can contact directly to update them on the status of their case. Shadowing the daily routine of my supervisors is so impactful, when I get to watch them help transform timid, vulnerable victims into confident, self-advocates willing to testify against their assailant. And filling out paperwork is extremely satisfying when I know I am creating an important document that a prosecutor will use in an upcoming trial. My work has taught me important skills such as how to work in a high-paced environment where assignments often need immediate attention and how to stay calm when presented with unfamiliar situations and tasks. I truly feel like I am developing skills that will better equip me to enter the work force, teaching me how to adapt, take direction and be a leader.

As a student preparing to apply to law school, I hoped my internship would provide me clarity as to my future career goals and I have not been disappointed. This internship has allowed me to see the legal system from a closer perspective and through a far different lens then any academic or on-campus experiences have permitted. My experience at Boston Municipal has proved to be exceptionally different than learning about legal issues in a classroom. Rather than reading about the criminal justice process or learning about an individual’s legal rights from an analytic perspective, I am able to see these issues unfold. The work is fast-paced, exciting, and extremely rewarding. Seeing the application of law makes me realize the integral role the legal system plays in maintaining order within our society.

Overall, this experience is making me confident that pursuing a career in law is, undoubtedly, the right decision for me.

Dustin Fire, ’17

Social Justice WOW Fellow

Justice is not a Puzzle: Week 1 at the Boston DA

Outside of Boston Municipal Courthouse

I used to think criminal justice was like a puzzle. Lawyers and judges were given a set of rules to apply and, as long as they followed those rules, they could ensure a just outcome. I have since realized, however, that unlike puzzles, criminal justice does not come in a box with a picture of justice on the front. We can only ensure that the rules will lead to an acceptable outcome if we constantly discuss and define what it means for law and punishment to be just.

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Victim Witness Assistance Program, where I am interning this summer, is a product of this continually evolving understanding of justice.

The Victim’s Bill of Rights was established in 1982, resulting in 44 states adopting statutes to give victims access to funds, protection, case information, and rights to attend trial. Massachusetts enacted the legislation in 1984, establishing Victim Witness Assistance Programs in every District Attorney’s Office in the state. The VWA Program is a source of legal and emotional support for the victims and witnesses of crimes and their families and ensures that their legal rights are not forgotten during the criminal prosecution process.

Boston Municipal Courthouse
Inside of Boston Municipal Courthouse


As an intern, I work directly with the two full time advocates. In my first week as an intern, I have come to learn how the small VWA office—easy to miss in the corner of the bustling Boston Municipal Courthouse—plays a fundamental role in maintaining the morality and justice of many proceedings. The advocates are primarily charged with contacting and meeting witnesses and victims of crimes to ensure that these individuals remain aware of the status of their case, know their participatory and compensatory rights, and feel comfortable during and after the trial. The job of the advocates is not only important for the well-being of the victims and witnesses, but is also essential to the legal process as a whole. Often these vulnerable individuals provide material testimony and, without the support of the advocates, would be unwilling or unable to come to trial.

In my first week, I was primarily tasked with writing letters to victims of crimes to updates of proceedings so they know when they can or should appear in court. I also spent time editing case files to ensure Assistant District Attorneys had updated information during arraignments and trial. My biggest task was to learn the workings of the office and gain my footing in the courthouse. I learned how to use the internal management software to find past crime records, which courtroom to go to depending on the stage of the proceeding, and have accumulated a lengthy list of the important legal jargon.

I also shadowed the advocates and spent time in the courtroom during different stages of the criminal proceedings. This included observing trials and arraignments and participating in advocate-victim meetings. I hope to utilize this internship to clarify my future career options and interests. The knowledge and exposure to the courtroom this internship is affording will make this goal not only achievable, but nearly inevitable.

It is easy to forget that criminal justice serves a purpose beyond punishment. We want law to reflect a code of fairness and equality and to protect the inherent moral worth of both the criminal and the victim. Ensuring that our penal code maintains a standard of justice is certainly not a simple goal, but it is undoubtedly one towards which we must constantly strive.

This summer, I am excited to contribute to that goal.



My ID to get into the courthouse each day

Dustin Fire, ’17